Monday, March 14, 2011


The excavation contractor is making good time with the great weather we've had recently. They are done with the bulk of the excavation for the building foundation, and should be ready to do fine-grading by tomorrow afternoon. The surveyor is scheduled to come out on Wednesday morning to stake the corners of the septic tank for excavation and check elevations, then the geotechnical engineer will take some samples to provide final foundation design recommendations.

Following are some photos from my site visit today:

(large rocks I asked to be saved for landscaping in the foreground)

(looking north, towards the fill from the future street)

I'd estimate those guys have hauled off about 1,500-2,000 cubic meters of fill already, and they probably have another 1,000 to go before they're all done. The cost for that work will probably run around 57,000 NIS (New Israeli Shekels), or about $15,800. The initial estimate was for 10-12 days of work, but I think they'll be done in closer to 8 days, since they haven't encountered much rock.

Today, we had to ask the geotechnical engineer to make a quick trip to the site to evaluate the stability of the fill material from the street that is encroaching on our property. The final elevation for the 1st basement level gardens falls on top of 1-3 meters of fill, and the decision was made to remove all that excess fill and go down to natural grade. This will increase the excavation quantities from the initial estimate, and probably result in taller retaining walls along the street, but will hopefully be less expensive than having to deal with excavating for wall foundations after the big backhoe is offsite, and create for a more stable design environment for the retaining wall.

I was again reminded of the differences in the way people do business here, since (a) I called the geotech firm owner, he was in Barcelona but answered his phone and gave me the name and number of another engineer in his office, who made the time (and took a taxi) to come to the site on a 1-hour notice, (b) he and I walked around and under the backhoe while it was working, asked the guy to dig in a certain spot in front of us to confirm his assessment of the natural ground elevation, and (c) I called the surveyor and made arrangement to have them come out to the site on a day's notice and they are both willing and able to do so.

I feel like I've been fortunate in my dealings with contractors and designers so far, and everyone has been accommodating and responsive. I keep getting the feeling that it's still a small town and people will do what they can to help you. We had a similar experience on a personal level when we first arrived and had the need to call a doctor a 7pm on our second or third night in town. Not only did he answer his cell phone, he stopped by our house 20 minutes later for a house call and we paid him directly. I think if I can stay ahead of the curve a little bit, I can keep this project moving forward pretty smoothly ... I just wish I knew more about what to expect and how a typical project of this type progresses, but I guess that's why they call it gaining experience. 

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